Valentine’s Day in Japan: A Chocolate Disaster, Not a Love Story

Who would have thought that the land of the rising sun would turn into the land of chocolate-covered hearts? But that’s exactly what happened in the 1930s when Morozoff, a Kobe-based chocolate maker, decided to advertise chocolate as the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Little did they know, their ads were placed in English-language newspapers that few Japanese read, making their efforts completely ineffective. But, let’s be real, who needs love when you’ve got chocolate?
But Morozoff didn’t give up easily. In 1951, they decided to make red heart-shaped chocolates and the Osaka area went wild for them. By 1958, they started a campaign in Tokyo, and by 1965, the custom of Valentine’s Day in Japan was firmly established. But there were a few things that set Japan’s Valentine’s Day apart from other countries. First, chocolate was the only gift acceptable, and second, it was limited to women expressing their affection to men. Talk about a chocolate monopoly!
However, this custom became less and less popular after the bubble economy of the late 1980s. Men who received chocolates would give a gift worth three times the chocolate they received on White Day, an anniversary created a month later. This led to the birth of “giri-chocolate,” or chocolates given as a seasonal greeting rather than an expression of love. So, it’s not just love that’s being bought and sold, it’s also chocolate!
And now, in the 21st century, the Japanese are losing interest in this totally meaningless event. The best person a woman can give chocolate to is herself. At this time of year, many fine chocolates are sold, and they buy it for themselves to eat it. The custom of giving chocolate as a gift is still practiced a little, but the person to whom a woman gives it most is not a man, but a good female friend “友チョコ” (friend chocolate). So, it’s not just men who are getting the short end of the stick, it’s also women!
More than 80% of high school students say they buy chocolate for their friends, and 40% of single women over 30 buy chocolate for themselves. So, if you’re in Japan on Valentine’s Day and you’re a man, don’t expect any chocolate. But if you’re a woman, go ahead and treat yourself to a delicious box of chocolates, because that’s what Valentine’s Day in Japan is all about. Forget love, all you need is chocolate. So, it’s better to call it a chocolate disaster rather than a love story.



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